As our country is easing stay-at-home restrictions, we are all being faced with decisions to make.
Which family members and friends do you feel comfortable bringing into your social circle?
Are you accepting invitations to dine out with others? Is a backyard birthday celebration okay?
Though socialization is something we all crave as it’s an important aspect of one’s emotional health, the stress of catching the coronavirus is still there; the virus hasn’t disappeared.
To help you manage these decisions and the related stress moving forward, here are some tips I hope you find helpful:
1 – Know your Comfort Level
Based on your age, health, risk factors and stress tolerance, what’s right for you may be different than what’s right for your friends.
For example, we now know that people with obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are at greater risks for complications from coronavirus.
I tell my patients to use this time as an incentive to improve health habits. Eating better, getting a good night’s sleep, moving more and finding ways to de-stress are now more important than ever.
You also need to decide if the benefits of expanding your social circle are worth the stress you may be feeling.
This is a very individual decision – something only you can decide for yourself.
2 – Talk to your ‘QuaranTEAM’
Now’s the time to talk to the other members of your household to gauge their comfort level as well.
For example, you also need to take into account if a spouse, child, relative or roommate has a health problem, older age or a lower risk tolerance.
If anyone in the family works outside the home as a health care or essential worker, then this can have implications for others who want to socialize with you as all of your risk levels may be higher.
If you have children in the home, are there safe activities that families can enjoy together such as bike riding, nature hikes or engaging in other social distancing visits outdoors?
The best strategy is to move forward as a “team” with socialization plans you all can agree upon.
3 – Know the Basics
Although the CDC recommendations for daily life and coping with COVID-19 are posted on their website, each state has developed its own pace and guidelines for loosening up the ‘stay at home’ restrictions.
Some of the basic recommendations include:
– Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when you are in public places or outdoor and unable to social distance at least 6 feet apart from others
-Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds especially after being in a public place
-If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
–Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands
4 – Stay Flexible
When it comes to staying healthy, maintaining flexibility in your behaviors and mindset are key.
We know that flexibility helps nudge better health habits and weight loss success.
We talk about this a lot in my latest book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!, as inflexibility can quickly get in the way of achieving healthy weight loss.
But this applies now as well!
Too much rigidity in your thinking, such as “I will never feel comfortable doing a social distancing walk with my friends” or “I will never do a family bike ride until this pandemic is over” doesn’t allow you to progress your self-care as the world around us changes.
It’s important to acknowledge that this is a difficult time for everyone; it is not a time to judge one another or oneself.
This is also a fluid time. Each day we are learning new things about coronavirus transmission and about spread in each of our communities.
We all need to be open to changing our socialization plans as new information comes our way and as our comfort levels change.
Like any change in behavior, small successes can lead to bigger ones.
Stay safe and be well!
Robert Kushner, MD
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